Conversations About Theology
By far, my favorite subject to discuss is theology, especially in regard to the Bible. I enjoy a good conversation in the exchanging of ideas and thoughts with someone who has a desire to put the truth at the forefront of all learning and has devoted their lives to searching the Scripture. In one of my past employment experiences I was a supervisor of about fifteen people. Sometimes these people would come to me and ask a question about the Bible. I would enjoy these questions and would often do my best to answer them. One of them eventually confessed that everyone usually asked these questions just so that they could get out of work! Well, they were successful in their endeavors because this was one subject I rarely avoided. People often say we should not discuss “religion,” especially in the work place, but I believe that this subject should be discussed more than any other. People are willing to discuss sports, movies, or their social activities but they shy completely away from the eternal things of God. Of course it is not wrong to discuss other things in life, but it is foolish if this is all there is to life. Some people who claim to have little time for learning about Jesus seem to find the time for other, less important things around us. What is more discouraging to my heart is that this is often true about Christians as much as anyone else. We should all want to talk about our wonderful savior. In my experience I have discovered that when surrounded by other believers in a church function or fellowship meeting, everyone wants to discuss anything except theology. I have noticed that sometimes when the conversation does move toward the subject of God, people like to tell shallow stories or share some elaborate experience they have had, which is usually nothing more than their imagination as they attribute to God things that we know Scripture does not. It is difficult to find other people who want to discuss the heart and soul of Biblical doctrine, and who do so with an open mind about what God is teaching through His living Word. To a degree I sympathize with some people because they probably do not want to engage in a debate because they realize that passions can often rise when discussing the Bible. (I will say more about debating later.) While I can understand the desire to avoid controversy, I also think there are other reasons people avoid these discussions. Some simply do not want to hear or be confronted with the truth. They have become content with a god they have created in their own minds who allows them to live they way they want to live. Some feel very inadequate to engage in such a conversation, but this should be the best reason to talk about the Bible. Others think they know all there is to know and therefore do not believe they can learn anymore. These are the ones who usually dominate the conversation with all their so-called knowledge, yet the whole time they are revealing their own ignorance. The Bible speaks of this: ”A prudent man keeps his knowledge to himself, but the heart of fools blurts out folly” (Proverbs 12:23) and ”Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue” (Proverbs 17:28). I remember well when my father taught me that we can sometimes learn a lot more by listening than by speaking.
Recently my father was speaking to me about submission to the Word of God. His words spoke to my heart. When we discuss the Word of God, and we should do so often, the attitude of all of us should be just that, submit to what it says. Here is what the Bible says about this subject found in the book of James:
James 1:22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it — he will be blessed in what he does.
In one of our recent articles, we pointed out that while we believe in Jesus, we should also believe Jesus. Submitting to the Word of God means that it is our final authority on all matters. This should be our attitude of heart, desiring to submit to what God is telling us through the Scriptures. When we discuss the things of God, our focus should never be upon what we want the Bible to say and therefore try to convince others to that effect. Instead, we should look for and adhere to what the Bible actually has to say. One of the greatest of admonishments from our Lord Jesus is to listen, and allow what He is saying to be received into our hearts and minds. He says this to all of the seven Churches in the book of Revelation and says it often in the Gospel accounts, “Listen…” One of the idioms that some versions translate literally is “let these words sink into your ears”. In the book of Proverbs God also beseeches us to listen to what He is saying. To have a heart of rebellion toward the things of God is not only foolish, it is a disgrace. We should listen to what the Scriptures are telling us.
We are faced with an overwhelming amount of false teachings in this world, often under the guise of Christendom. Even in what are often considered to be good, sound, biblical, conservative, Churches, we have false teachings. This is not always done with intent, but rather is based largely upon ignorance by those who are too slothful to consider what the Bible actually says. Many rely primarily upon what is considered the normal, traditional teachings of their denomination and they are unwilling to submit to what the truth is. Some are too concerned with their own image within the operations of their “Church” or of what they believe “Christianity” should be, as opposed to what the Bible teaches it is. Their mission is to set up a place to worship that will fit the desires of those who attend, and to keep with their idea of that image, without a desire to know whether that image fits the teachings within in the Word of God.
When it comes to engaging in a discussion of what the Bible teaches, Paul was right in asking the question, “Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth? (Gal 4:16)” Today, people are often considered wrong for trying to discuss the Bible. Too many people feel that a discussion of who won the football game is better suited for conversation rather than discussing the things of God. We should all have a desire to talk about the Lord with a heart of submission toward what is the truth, and ultimately to what the Bible teaches.
While many avoid talking about the Bible at all, there are those who seem to love the confrontations that come from debating the Bible. Certainly, there are times when certain things should be debated, but it should always be done without losing our temper. We should always discuss these things with kindness and love in our hearts.
Acts 18:27 When Apollos wanted to go to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples there to welcome him. On arriving, he was a great help to those who by grace had believed. 28 For he vigorously refuted the Jews in public debate ,proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ.
I can appreciate a well organized, formal debate between people with different ideas, as long as they have one goal – discovering the truth by learning what the Bible actually says. There are times when confronting people with the truth can show them how foolish their arguments are. The way we debate should always be with the utmost kindness, gentleness, and with respect. It should never be harsh and cold hearted. We should not be simply trying to prove we are right and they are wrong! This was certainly not the attitude of those sharing the truth in the Bible. Our focus should always be to see what the Bible says, and then submit to it. Some people desire to do nothing but debate, and this can get old very fast. As I stated in the beginning, I love discussing the Bible, but for some people it is much more than this. To them it becomes a time to prove how much they know. They do not want to discuss things, they want to argue, and usually (though not always), they are speaking in ignorance for their arguments are based upon error to begin with.
While there are many individuals who are argumentative, there are organizations that teach their followers to have this attitude. One group that serves as a good example of this are the Jehovah's Witnesses. This organization is a cult and I say that without a moment of hesitation. Any organization that is set on undermining the deity of the Savior Jesus Christ (and this organization does) is certainly not Christian. Their whole presentation is rooted in deceit. They twist the Scripture, taking passages completely and grossly out of context, to fit their distorted view of a god they want to believe in. They are trained to debate, and they are very good at doing just that. They are taught to have an answer against every clear teaching of the Bible. They have even resorted to re-translating the Scripture, editing it several times, to fit their religion, when instead they should fit their religion to the Scripture. They have failed to have an attitude of submission toward what the Bible teaches.
The Bible says: ”But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,” (1 Peter 3:15). This passage certainly should be applied when dealing with the Jehovah's Witnesses. When these people come to your door, it is good to be prepared to defend your faith and have the knowledge of the Bible to speak the truth. It is doubtful that they will change their minds on the doorstep of your home, but the name of Jesus should be exalted and defended. I relish any opportunity to share the gospel to anyone who even appears to be listening, as I know it is the power of God unto Salvation (Rom 1:16). I consider all who are a part of this organization to be without Christ and in need of Him. They need to hear the gospel like every other lost person.
But when is it enough? Sometimes it is best to end futile arguments and move on. Leave what was spoken in God’s hands and believe that He is in control. He said that His word would never return void, and it is sharper than any two edged sword (Isa. 55:11; Heb. 4:12). I am deeply saddened when someone disdains Jesus, especially when they do so under the disguise of authority, leadership, and religion. I want to lift up His deity and name with the same teachings and feelings of Paul found in Philippians chapter two. But sometimes we must quit, understanding that our efforts can only go so far. Here is what Paul said:
Titus 3:10 As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, 11knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned. ESV
If all a person wants to do is argue over issues without ever having the intention of learning, growing, and submitting in the faith of God – move on. The King James version of the Bible calls such people heretics and these types of people should be shown the truth. However, when it becomes ineffectual; stop. We certainly should not be looking for contention, though sometimes that will happen (Acts 15:39). We should not be rude. We should be careful in our discernment and always be ready to give a defense with gentleness, praying that others will be willing to submit to the truth found in God's Word. When people are confronted with the plain truth and still reject it in favor of following their own view, it then becomes apparent that they are unwilling to submit to God’s truth. This is a sad thing.
Sometimes in life we find ourselves close to someone who has been deceived by the lures of false religions such as the Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormonism, Catholicism, Pentecostalism, and so on. These people may be a very close to us and play an important role in our lives, such as co-workers or friends, but sometimes they are our own family members – even our spouses. Despite our many efforts, they seem so unwilling to look to the truth of the Scripture. These people are closest to our hearts and it is difficult for us to watch them being deceived in a way which will ultimately lead them to spend eternity separated from God in hell. The Bible says we should live our lives in a way which will cause others to observe a difference in our lives. When the opportunities avail themselves to discuss the Scripture, do your best to know the Scriptures so you can give them the right answers. As we pray for our loved ones, remember that God desires for them to come to the truth more than we do. There is only so much we can do in these situations. When an individual does not desire to submit to the Word of God alone, that is ultimately their decision – no matter how wrong they are. We cannot blame ourselves for their choices. We should just continue to keep them in our prayers, praying for more opportunities to speak the truth in love.
We should all listen and submit to the words of the Bible, submit to the truth it contains, and be willing to discuss the Scripture without hesitation. Jesus should not just be number one in our lives, with everything else falling second, third and so on. He is our lives in every way. He is the one who gave His life for us; let us learn more about who He is. We can start by opening the Word of God with a sincere desire to learn the truth it contains. When we do this, His love for us will be known in a way that surpasses all human understanding, and our lives will be filled with peace and wisdom to live each and every day to its fullest.